Europe

Throwback Thursday: Cinque Terre

Lifes a trip
Lifes a trip

Today I am throwing back to one of my favorite vacations of all time: Cinque Terre! I love Cinque Terre for so many reasons, but a few that make it easily one of my favorite all time vacation spots.

1. The views- Even though it was cloudy when we were in Cinque Terre it was still so beautiful!! All of the houses and buildings overlooking the blue water. Just fantastic! My favorite views were between Monterossa and Vernaza. We hiked through all five towns and then took the train back to Corniglia where we stayed. The hike does take some time, but I think it is 100% worth it!

2. The food- When you are this close to the ocean, the seafood is INSANE. I ate so many seafood dishes both with and without pasta while I was there. Plan ahead and decide which town you want to be in for lunch and find a great restaurant with a view.

3. Enjoying the ride- Sometimes on vacation I feel bogged down by all of the historical sites that I have to see. One of the things I loved about Cinque Terre is that there aren't really any historical sites there. For the entire time we were there we really could just enjoy the ride!

Have you been to Cinque Terre? What was your favorite part of the journey?

24 Hours in Bruges

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5364874567_fa9d4f00a5_b

As I was helping my friend plan her trip to Brussels, she also mentioned wanting to spend 24 hours in Bruges! I think a little day trip while on vacation is always a fun change and gives you the chance to explore another area. Since Bruges is only an hour long train ride from Brussels, I really encouraged her to give it a try!

The train station isn't far from the city center, which is where I told her to head first! The historic center of Bruges and the Markt are supposed to be just fantastic! You can experience the incredible architecture and enjoy people watching around the entire square. I also encouraged her to climb the historic bell tower to see the most incredible panoramic views of the city!

There is also an amazing brewery in Bruges called the Half Moon Brewery. They have some of the best beer in Belgium and it is certainly worth taking the tour as well! This would be a great mid-day stop in Bruges.

Many people rave about the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which actually has drops of blood from Jesus. Pretty interesting!

Bruges also has a fantastic art museum called the Groeninge. It's a very small art museum but it is supposed to be absolutely fantastic!

I also gave her a few quirky places to visit like the Frites museum, to learn all about Belgium's french fry culture! And of course, Dumon Artisanale Chocolatier. This is THE place to go for chocolate in Bruges. Yum Yum!

The perfect mix of walking, culture, exploring and of course eating.

What are your favorite things to do in Bruges?

Top Three Must Sees in Brussels

Brussels is such a fantastic European city, but it's one of the few I haven't been to! I have a friend going there soon who asked me for some tips and of course I came up with an amazing itinerary for her! Here are the top three things I told her she MUST see!

Free Walking Tour of the City: According to some very fantastic TripAdvisor reviews, there is an incredible free walking tour offered that does an amazing job of helping orient you in the city. It is a little over 2 hours long, but covers all of of the amazing sites in Brussels. On your tour you will see:

  • Grand Place
  • Town Hall
  • Maison du Roi
  • Comic Art Scene
  • The Stock Exchange
  • Galeries Saint Hubert
  • Manneken Pis
  • The Monnaie Opera
  • St Nicolas’ Church
  • River Senne
  • The Royal Square
  • Mont des Arts

I love to start my time in a city by seeing all of the great sites. Brussels has so many of them and this is a great way to see them all.

Waffles: While researching I found an amazing waffle workshop! This workshop is located right by the Grand Place so it will be easy to hop onto after the walking tour. The other stop I recommended for a waffle is Maison Dandoy! You absolutely have to try a traditional Belgium waffle while in Brussels.

Chocolate and Beer: After the walking tour, I would totally want to experience two of Brussels favorites: Chocolate and Beer! This tour has amazing reviews and is the one I would definitely pick. The first half of the tour is all about chocolate and the second half is all about beer! My absolute favorite beer to enjoy is a Trappist. It is brewed by monks in Belgium and has a delicious and smooth flavor.

Of course, there are hundreds of amazing things to experience in Brussels, but these are the three I would pick first!

What would you see first in Brussels? 

24 hours in Florence Italy

Today I am linking up with the #sundaytraveler linkup! Thanks to Pack Me To! I spent six months living in Florence Italy and it quickly became one of my favorite places in Europe. It's quaint, but modern. Full of history, but full of life. And it made for the perfect place to spend a semester.

Pack Me To

Recently one of my friends was going to Florence but only for 24 hours! This isn't really enough time to explore everything, but it is enough time to enjoy a few of my favorite things. Here is what you should do if you find yourself in Florence for just one day!

1. Book tickets ahead of time to see David at the Academia: It is a once in a lifetime chance to see this incredible statue.

2. Climb to the top of the Duomo: When I lived in Florence, I could see the Duomo from my window, but it wasn't until my last day there that I actually climbed it. Stunning views inside and out.

3. Explore the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens: This was one of my FAVORITE places in Florence to relax and explore. It was the residence for a Grand Duke of Tuscany and there are museums within the palace. The gardens are the real show stopper though!

4. Walk to the Ponte Vecchio: This a bridge over the Arno river that has a handful of little jewelry stores all over it. It offers a beautiful view of Florence and is a fun shopping destination.

5. EAT, EAT, EAT: Florence is obviously known for their food. You can find a million great places to eat, but a few of my favorites are La Giostra, Il Latini, and da Nerbone for a Bolito Sandwich. Of course, don't forget to hit up Grom (or any gelato place) after you finish eating!

Now I know I skipped quite a few amazing places in Florence (the Ufizi gallery for one), but if I had only 24 hours in Florence this would be my schedule. It's such an amazing city full of amazing people. I hope you enjoy! Ciao!

Finding the best bar in a new city

Every time I visit a new city, I like to try and find the best bar. This is an extremely subjective topic as there are obviously a million amazing bars in every city. I really like to find the bar that is either 1) unique 2) historical or 3) just really fun. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Austin, TX- The Driskill Bar. The bar in the Driskill dates back to 1186 and is in the oldest hotel in Austin. The bar has a beautiful copper ceiling, huge couches and unique chairs. They also make a few special Austin-centric drinks.

2. Cape Town- Cape Grace Bar. In Cape Town the Cape Grace hotel has an underground whiskey bar. It's a great place to try a new whiskey and see a little bit of the Cape Town vibe. It didn't seem like there were many tourists in the bar, despite its location within a hotel.

3. Barcelona- Chupitos. This is definitely a bar you only go to once ;), but it is unique enough that you have to experience this Spanish shot bar.

In Barcelona, this bar has hundreds of shots available to order. Your bartender can definitely help you pick out one you will like. It's worth going for the unique experience and for the laughs.

What are your favorite bars around the world? I would love to know where I should hit up next!

Visiting the Blue Grotto in Capri

I absolutely love water, so when given the chance to experience some of the world's most beautiful water in the Blue Grotto, I took it! The trip is definitely touristy (and expensive), but I just can't imagine going there and not seeing it! The tide was a little high that day, which means you had to lay down to enter the grotto. I  was a little scared...

But soon enough we were inside and it was magnificent.

The camera I had five years ago does it NO justice. The water is beautiful and glowing like nothing I've ever seen. This experience may be overpriced but it is not overrated.

Don't go all the way to Capri and miss out on the Blue Grotto!

Finding a Doctor in Paris

Every once in a while you find yourself in the most incredible place on earth. And then you get sick and the rest of your trip is at the mercy of you feeling better. That is what happened to me last time I was in Paris. I started to come down with an extremely sore throat that made it impossible for me to enjoy any delicious foods or my sight-seeing days in Paris. We were there for 4 full days, so when we arrived and I started to feel bad I decided I wanted to find a doctor. I figured if I could get some antibiotics in my system during the first 24 hours I would be fine.

But....how the heck do you find a doctor in Paris? I took a two pronged approach by asking both the concierge at my hotel and the pharmacist down the street for an english speaking recommendation. They both recommended the same person (thank goodness) and I made an appointment for later that day.

I arrived at the doctor and he was able to diagnose me and give me a prescription. Within 30 minutes I was on my way out of the pharmacy, medicine in hand. I don't know much about the French healthcare system, but I paid for everything in cash and it was not very expensive.

Just as I suspected, within 24 hours I was feeling MUCH better and able to rejoin my group of friends. I was very hesitant to see a doctor in another country. What if he doesn't understand me? What if he doesn't get my medical history? What if he prescribes me some terrible drug? On the flip side, I was willing to take a little bit of a risk to feel better and enjoy the rest of my vacation. It also really helped that the doctor spoke perfect English, making it much easier to communicate.

I was just so happy to get back to sightseeing and enjoy my time in Paris! If you get sick on a vacation, I highly recommend finding a qualified doctor to see you!

Must-See: La Boqueria in Barcelona

There are few things I love more than an amazing local market.  Some people may say that the Boqueria in Barcelona is too touristy. But I say, no way!

To me there is no experience more unique than exploring foods, produce and even candy in a new country.

It's an experience of the senses and to me a total must see.